THE SHOOTERS PERSPECTIVE
View from the Stands Vol. 2.
With the NHL season almost two months old we begin to approach the so-called ‘point of no return’ and as we near American Thanksgiving we begin to get a clearer picture of what the playoffs may look like in April. Historically approximately 78% of teams in a playoff spot by Thursday November 22nd will find themselves preparing for the post season come April. This is the time of year when teams on the outside looking in make their moves to try and creep towards any spots that might become available.
We are still early in the NHL season, but we’ve already seen two teams try and shake things up as the LA Kings relieved John Stevens of his duties after a 4-8-1 start. The Kings have struggled mightily to score goals to start off the season as they’re averaging only 2 goals for per game. The Kings attempted to add some much needed speed to their lineup last week as they made a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins and added Carl Hagelin in exchange for 26 year old Tanner Pearson. Hagelin has yet to find his way to the scoresheet in his first two games with his new teams as both the Kings and Pens try to work their way out of the basement of their respective divisions.
Two days after the Kings named Willie Desjardin interim coach the Blackhawks followed suit and tried to right their own ship by firing Joel Quenneville, who led the team to nine playoff appearances and three Stanley Cups in his ten years with the organization. The Blackhawks then named Jeremy Colliton the 38th head coach in franchise history. Unfortunately for the Hawks they haven’t found new life under their new coach as they’ve started off his tenure going 2-2-2, while scoring 2 or less goals in four of those six games.
Now let’s take a look at some other potential coaches who might find themselves on the hot seat while their organizations try and find a way to fix what ails them. There isn’t an exact science to predicting these sort of things, but numbers speak for themselves and as Josh Donaldson would say like the MLB the NHL “Isn't the try league. This is the get it done league."
Pittsburgh Penguins - Mike Sullivan
This is an obvious case of what have you done for me lately and when you have a roster that consists of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Kris Letang you expect results. This season though the Penguins haven’t found much success, and while a lot of these struggles can be attributed to Matt Murray’s GAA of 4.08 and S% of .877, but if things don’t turn around quickly Mike Sullivan could find himself on the outside looking in. Some may point to the two Stanley Cups that Sullivan has brought to Pittsburgh as something that may provide him a bit of a reprieve, but the core of this team isn’t getting any younger and with the window for success on its way down, you’d have to imagine Jim Rutherford is keeping all options open.
Philadelphia Flyers - Dave Hakstol
You can’t completely blame a coach for the struggles of his goaltenders and that might be the only reason Dave Hakstol will end up getting a pass, but from a city that boos Santa Claus you have to understand results are all that matters. In his first and third season Hakstolmanaged to lead the Flyers to the playoffs, but made first round exits in both postseason appearances. Now with the Flyers sitting five points out of the playoffs and Michael Neuvirth continuing to be a brittle as a cracker the Flyers management might be looking to find a spark in some other way. Luckily for Hakstol with both the Rangers and Islanders having surprising starts there might be a chance the Flyers can find themselves back in a playoff spot in the wide-open Metro.
Detroit Red Wings - Jeff Blashill
Jeff Blashill was supposed to be the heir apparent to Mike Babcock, the guy who was going to step in and maintain the Red Wings’ playoff streak which stood at 24 years when Blashill took over. Blashill was able to maintain that streak for his first season, but he’s missed the playoffs in both of the last two seasons. The Red Wings sit five points out of a wild card position and six points out of 3rd place in the Atlantic Division. The general consensus in most NHL circles is the Red Wings will end the season in a lottery position and will likely be picking at the top of the 2019 draft, but the next question becomes whether or not Blashill is the guy to lead the future of the Red Wings as they eventually look to return to the postseason.
St. Louis Blues - Mike Yeo (article written before announcement this morning)
Mike Yeo might be a victim of his own success after starting his career with the Blues off with a 22-8-2 record it’s all been downhill from there. After trading away Paul Stastny at last years deadline the Blues went out this off season and shored up themselves at center by acquiring Ryan O’Reilly and signing Tyler Bozak. Unfortunately these upgrades haven’t panned out and St. Louis finds themselves in a position where Buffalo owns their first round pick, with top 10 protection. At this juncture the worst case scenario for the Blues might be finishing in that 11-15 position where they miss the playoffs and lose their draft pick. If Yeo can’t find some way to get the most out of this lineup then maybe Doug Armstrong will find someone who can.
Have to Go
Anaheim Ducks - Randy Carlyle
Maybe lightning will strike twice? That was the hope in Anaheim when they decided to bring Randy Carlyle back for a second stint as Ducks’ head coach, but even though he’s experienced some regular season success he hasn’t been able to get the Ducks over the hump. This season has been a real struggle in Anaheim and considering that Corey Perry hasn’t played a single game due to injury that isn’t a surprise. The Ducks are 3-4-3 in their last 10 games but they appear to be fading fast and for a team that some people view as rich defensively they’ve struggled with a -17 goal differential. It’s hard to believe Carlyle has the ability to adapt to today’s NHL and in my opinion it’s only a matter of time before the Ducks show Randy the door...again.
Ottawa Senators - Guy Boucher
Things are bad in Ottawa, how bad? So bad I’m not even going to make a joke about how bad they are. Things at this point probably aren’t as bad on the ice as many fans had thought but the off ice issues have continued. Senators players were recently caught on tape bashing a member of Boucher’s coaching staff and truth be told Boucher himself should be bashing Martin Raymond’s penalty kill units, which are currently sitting 30th in the NHL at 68.8%. Guy Boucher might not be completely to blame as much as you should blame the inept ownership and management, but the players look like, and sound like, they’ve tuned out the coaching staff and if you don’t respect a coach or his systems then he’s already lost the battle. Guy Boucher is living on borrowed time and if it wasn’t for Eugene Melnyk likely not wanting to pay another coach odds are Boucher would already be towing the unemployment line.
Should Already be Gone
Edmonton Oilers - Peter Chiarelli & Todd McLellan
This doesn’t fall entirely on the coach and even though Todd McLellan deserves to be shown the door a lot of this falls on Peter Chiarelli. It’s not all bad for Chiarelli though as it’s likely he’ll receive some votes for General Manager of the Year for the work he’s done to help rebuild the New York Islanders. The Oilers find themselves in cap trouble already and seem to be wasting what could be the best years of Connor McDavid’s career. How is this McLellan’s fault though you might ask? There have been plenty of times this season when Milan Lucic rides shotgun with McDavid as a warning to other teams not to mess with his star player, which is great in theory, but Lucic has shown with his shooting percentage of 6.5% over the last two seasons that he isn’t going to provide any finish for the best player in the league. McLellan also found himself out coached Saturday night when his Oilers gave up 4 unanswered goals to lose the Battle of Alberta. At this point I even hesitate to call them “his” Oilers as it times it truly seems like this team has tuned out their coach.
Was your team’s coach on the list? Do you agree or disagree? Did I miss someone? I’d love to hear from you.